Jones County officials discuss recovery progress
Jones County Manager Franky Howard addresses the current state of the region during a press conference Wednesday at the Jones County Civic Center. Photo by Junious Smith III / Neuse News
TRENTON | There are signs of normalcy in Jones County, but there’s plenty of recovery work to be done.
In a press conference Wednesday at the Jones County Civic Center, officials outlined the progress that's been made as the county recovers from Hurricane Florence. All Jones County offices are back to normal operation with the exception of the courthouse, tax office and register of deeds, the staffs of which have been moved to the county administration building due to flooding.
The courthouse is projected to reopen next week. While the landfill is still closed, the county is in the process of setting up a temporary site. Curbside trash collection resumed Tuesday.
Jones County Manager Franky Howard said electrical and water services are almost fully restored and the boil water advisory was lifted Tuesday. A relief shelter has been created in a vacant shell building at 181 Industrial Park Drive in Trenton and Howard said it’ll be available as long as necessary.
“We’ve got the shelter set up and there’s only a handful of folks in there right now,” Howard said. “There are still (Jones County) folks at out-of-county shelters — we did bus some who ended up in Chapel Hill. Most folks are fortunate (to be with) family members for housing temporarily. We’re trying to help people out the best we can with the resources we have.”
“We’ve got citizens who lost everything they own and it’s hard to stay positive in times like that, but everybody has been coming together. We ask our residents to stay strong and the county is here to give assistance where we can.”
Jones County Sheriff Danny Heath said the deputies couldn’t make it everywhere due to flooding blocking numerous areas in the county, As of this writing, there were no reported fatalities, largely due to first responders and citizens working together.
“If they (first responders and citizens) hadn’t (assisted each other), I think the outcome would’ve been a lot worse,” Heath said. “I was doing some serious praying because (the sheriff's department) couldn’t get out — we were on an island to ourselves — so when it all settled down and we could get out to assess what happened, we were relieved. My hats off to all the guys and girls in the county.”
Jones County Chairman Mike Haddock said there will be a meeting Friday with the Board of Commissioners to discuss present and future plans for the recovery effort.
“Most of these folks are in places they’ve never been before; never lost everything,” Haddock said. “It’s devastating when you come back from one of these shelters and see you’ve got nothing left; they’re heartbroken. We all are (heartbroken), and we want to do everything we can to get these people a home, get them to where they were before and maybe better than they were before.”
Jones County Health Director Wes Smith said free tetanus shots are available at the health department and stressed their importance.
“If there’s anyone who came into contact with floodwaters while cleaning up their yard or (suffered) a cut or a scrape and hasn’t had a (tetanus) shot (within the last) five years, they need to come by the health department and our nurses will take care of that at no charge,” Smith said.
Jones County DSS Superintendent Chris Harper said those looking to obtain disaster food and nutrition benefits can start the process Friday.
“We’ll be starting applications at the LCC Trenton site on (Friday),” Harper said. “Our hours will be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and we’ll be there until Oct. 6. On Saturday we’ll operate from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and we’ll have a day off on Sunday,
"If you’re currently receiving food and nutrition service benefits, you do not have to come in. The disaster food and nutrition benefits are a one-time benefit for people who had flooding issues or loss of food, and everyone is encouraged to apply.”
Jones County Superintendent Michael Bracy said most of the schools will be able to operate, although two were severely damaged by flooding, mildew, and mold. The initial plan is to get the county back in school on Oct. 15.
“Three of the (elementary schools) had minimal damage — Pollocksville Elementary School, Maysville Elementary School, and Comfort Elementary School,” Bracy said. “(The) high school took on minimal damage as well, (but) we’re going to be able to continue using that site as we begin to plan for (a return to a normal school schedule). Unfortunately, during this tragic event, Jones Middle School and Trenton Elementary School were total disasters. Because of timing and the river flooding, we were not able to get into those schools in time to save equipment, resources, and (other) materials.
“We are currently working on a district strategic transition plan for our students. We are scheduled to have a Board of Education meeting at 320 W. Jones Street on Oct. 1 at 5 p.m.. (At this meeting) the district leadership team will be presenting the transition plan for those students in the two displaced schools.”
A relief fund has been set up for Jones County citizens displaced or affected by Hurricane Florence. Donations can be mailed to 418 NC 58 North, Unit A, Trenton, N.C., 28585. For those looking to volunteer, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For anyone who'd like to donate supplies, Jones County officials are seeking mosquito repellent, cleaning supplies (such as mops, brooms, dustpans, face masks, sponges, buckets, spray bottles,wipes), canned vegetables, dry cereal, cereal bars, paper and plastic goods (napkins, plates, cups and eating utensils), feminine products, adult diapers and Ziploc bags, both gallon and quart-sized. Supplies can be dropped off at the Jones County Civic Center, located at 832 NC 58 South in Trenton.
For all other inquiries, call 252-397-0007 any time between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.